Frozen Rosé and Ziplines in Australia and New Zealand | Travel Diary

Our series about wanderlust-worthy vacation hotspots, with local picks (and gorgeous pics) from our intrepid Nordstrom crew.

February Travel Diary

Who: Natalia Valle, assistant buyer, menswear

Where: Sydney and Cairns, Australia; Auckland, New Zealand

Why did you choose this destination?

I do one large international trip a year and I have a friend who is currently traveling the world. She happened to be in Australia for the holidays—which is their summertime. It felt like the ideal time to travel to one of the farthest places on earth and meet up with my good friend. Plus, summer in the middle of winter seemed pretty spectacular.

Sydney Opera House

What did you wear there?

I wore workout gear a lot for the excursions I was doing throughout the three weeks. With such intense heat I lived in my running shorts, tanks and sneakers. (Stance super invisible socks helped on casual hikes.) When I wasn’t being as active, I was in breezy dresses, crop tops, boyfriend shorts, maxi dresses and rompers. I tried to keep things loose during the day, anything I could layer a swimsuit underneath. I made sure to always pack a linen button-down in my bag when heading to the beach. Sunburns can creep up on you quickly, so it was nice to have something that could cover my shoulders after too much sun. Sydney is a pretty dressed-up city, though, so for nightlife I recommend a pair of wedges or blocked heels with a fun dress or romper. Keep it cotton—the heat is no joke. Skip the jewelry: while people like to look nice when they hit the town, it still has a very beachy vibe, so no need to over-accessorize, especially if you’re traveling.

Waihike Island

Was there anything you wished you had packed but didn’t?

More sunscreen! Australia and New Zealand have a depleting ozone layer, which causes a lot more harmful sun rays and much stronger heat to get through. I packed two bottles and wish I had packed more. Also, my Seattle Mariners baseball hat. I missed that at the last minute and my forehead regretted it later.

Recommended shoes:

Sneakers and sandals! Aussies are friendly and laid-back, and so is their style. I lived in my Havaianas when I was wandering the beaches and boardwalks. If I wasn’t lounging, I was doing active excursions in my Nike Juvenate sneakers. Comfort was my best friend when traveling for three weeks!

Beach Club in Bondi

Favorite meal/place to eat:

The Bucket List on Bondi Beach! Easy small plates at a reasonable price, killer cocktails and an unbeatable vibe. Macelleria was also a great spot in Bondi. All-organic products that you pick out fresh and they cook it all made to order for you. Wherever you go, make sure to order the espresso martini or frosé (frozen rosé wine), which is available in the summertime and DELICIOUS.

Favorite nightlife venue:

Watsons Bay or Manly Beach. Watsons Bay Hotel has a fun outdoor patio that is right on the beach and has a young crowd. Manly is much more casual and perfect for bar hopping, live music, tapas and fun crowds.

Where did you stay?

I stayed at the Sheraton on the Park while in Sydney, at the Cairns Sheridan Hotel and at a friend’s house while in Auckland. I would recommend an Airbnb or hotel wherever you go. There’s no need to spend a lot, you won’t be spending a lot of your time there—there is too much to do in every city!

Snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef

Favorite activity:

Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns, morning beach yoga, ziplining the Daintree Rainforest or touring the glowworm caves in New Zealand—how can I pick?

What’s something cool that you learned?

I learned that the Daintree Rainforest is the oldest living rainforest in the world! It is also home to the golden orb spider, which creates one of the strongest webs known to mankind.


Favorite memory:  

It has to be getting caught in a tropical rainstorm while snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef. One minute the sun was shining, and the next we were being pelted with huge raindrops and wind gusts and forced to get out of the water. It only lasted about 30 minutes, and we were able to get back out, but it was a magical moment to look around and see nothing but the reefs, plant and animal life, and a storm surrounding you. If you’re flying all the way to Australia, I would say the reef is one opportunity not to miss. It reminds you how big and beautiful the earth is and how little of it we really get to see.

Coogee Walk

Where do the locals go?

Coogee Beach! Bondi, while amazing, is definitely more of a tourist beach. A couple miles south you will find Coogee Beach—you can even do a coast walk to get there—which is where more of the locals hang. The waves are stronger, the beach is smaller and the shopping is great! Merivale has a fun rooftop club that is famous for its summer frosé. The club overlooks the beach and has great tapas.

Did you meet any interesting locals? 

Most restaurants in Australia have communal tables, which is a perfect opportunity to meet locals. We met a ton of amazing people just by getting lunch at the beach. Everyone we came across was so proud to be from there and eagerly made suggestions about things to do and see. I’ve never met so many joyful people!

Zanerobe in Sydney

It was great connecting with the Zanerobe/Barney Cools team, which we work with here at Nordstrom, while in their hometown of Sydney. Their brand is strongly reflective of the Australian attitude and style, and that was really great to see in its element.

If you were to move there, what do you think you’d do for a living?

I would work on the beach selling Turkish towels and giving yoga lessons! Sun, sand and salty hair every day, I can’t imagine anything better!